TERRORISM REDEFINED: TERRORISM AS “COUNTER- HEGEMONIC ... ?· TERRORISM REDEFINED: TERRORISM AS “COUNTER-…

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    TERRORISM REDEFINED: TERRORISM AS COUNTER-HEGEMONIC POLITICAL VIOLENCE

    In the ongoing war on terror, few terms are as contentious as the concept of

    terrorism. While there are several definitions of terrorism, most contemporary

    classifications contain three primary components: (a) the threat or use of

    violence; (b) the furtherance of broader political objectives; and (c) the

    psychological effects on innocent victims. Yet, I will argue that most definitions of

    terrorism are meaningless because they neglect to consider the hegemonic basis

    of its conceptualization. As developed by Antonio Gramsci, the concept of

    hegemony encompasses not just the economic or coercive power of the

    dominant forces within a particular society but, more importantly, the cultural,

    moral, and ideological leadership exerted by such groups. Recently, the concept

    of hegemony has been applied to the international context, specifically to the

    global dominance of the United States and its Western allies, not just to indicate

    their military and economic preeminence, but also their cultural and ideological

    supremacy. An examination of the modern history of terrorism, from the French

    Revolution, through to the Anarchist and Third World nationalist groups of the

    nineteenth and twentieth centuries, to the Islamic fundamentalist movements of

    today, demonstrates that the term terrorism has been applied solely to those

    movements that have challenged the position of the dominant powers or states

    (i.e., the enemies of the status quo). Realist theorists argue that war is

    endemic to the conduct of international politics and that conflict is a natural part

    of the interactions between states. Consequently, all states use violence to incite

    fear for some political objective. The only distinction is between the Western

    perception of whether that state is hegemonic or not (i.e., us or them).

    Consequently, I will argue that a reconstructed definition would more accurately

    conceptualize terrorism as counter-hegemonic political violence.

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    DEFINITION OF TERRORISM There are arguably numerous definitions of terrorism. By some accounts,

    there could be in excess of one hundred distinct definitions.1 In addition, because

    of its contentious nature, some would argue that: There is no agreement on the

    definition [of terrorism], no systematic analysis of fragmented data, no applicable

    game models in fact, we cannot even say with any certainty whether the

    phenomenon is on the rise.2

    While there is undeniably a great deal of controversy surrounding the

    definition of what is a highly contentious and emotionally charged issue,

    especially in the post 9-11 environment, there does seem to be a general

    understanding regarding particular components central to all definitions of

    terrorism. According to Brian Jenkins: Terrorism is violence or the threat of violence calculated to create an atmosphere of fear and alarm in a word, to

    terrorize and thereby bring about some social or political change.3 Gregory

    Raymond concurs by stating: Political terrorism entails the deliberate use or threat of violence against non-combatants, calculated to instill fear, alarm, and

    ultimately a feeling of helplessness in an audience beyond the immediate

    victims.4 Finally, David Whittaker, in spite of the numerous definitions, still

    succinctly contends that it ought to be possible to secure some fundamental

    definition that regards the work of terrorists as intentional use of violence against

    non-combatant civilians aimed at reaching certain political ends.5

    1. See David J. Whittaker, Terrorists and Terrorism in the Contemporary World (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), p. 1. 2. Pavel K. Baev, Examining the Terrorism-War Dichotomy in the Russian-Chechnya Case, Contemporary Security Policy, Vol. 24, No. 2 (August 2003), p. 29. 3. Brian M. Jenkins, International Terrorism: The Other World War, in Charles W. Kegley, Jr. (ed.) The New Global Terrorism: Characteristics, Causes, and Controls (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2003), p. 16. 4. Gregory A. Raymond, The Evolving Strategies of Political Terrorism, in Kegley, Jr. (ed.) The New Global Terrorism, p. 72. 5. Whittaker, Terrorists and Terrorism in the Contemporary World, p. 6. Others who provide a very similar definition of terrorism include: Charles W. Kegley, Jr. Characteristics, Causes, and Controls of the New Global Terrorism: An Introduction, in Kegley, Jr. (ed.) The New Global Terrorism, p. 1; Martha Crenshaw, The Causes of Terrorism, in Kegley, Jr. (ed.) The New

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    While there are subtle distinctions presented in each of these definitions of

    terrorism, it can be confidently stated that all contain at least three common

    characteristics. First, inherent to each of these definitions is the component of the

    use of violence or, at the very minimal, its threatened use. According to J. Angelo

    Corlett: [A] definition of terrorism best captures what is essential to terrorism: it

    need not be violent, but pose only a threat of violence.6 In addition, to separate

    terrorism from other violence, or simply criminal acts such as murder or assault,

    there must be explicit political aims involved in such actions or threats of

    violence. Hence, the furtherance of broader political objectives is the second

    characteristic common to most definitions of terrorism. According to Gus Martin: These groups or agents engage in this behaviour intending the purposeful

    intimidation of governments or people to affect policy or behaviour with an

    underlying political objective.7 Third, and probably the one feature of terrorism

    that is expressed as its most definitive component, is the threats or the harms it

    directs towards innocent civilians. Consequently, since violence only needs to be

    threatened, and not actually only acted upon - an example is a terrorist who

    threatens to unleash a nuclear weapon, dirty bomb, or some other type of WMD

    unless his/her demands are met - it is this generation of fear and the

    psychological effects against innocent victims which may be terrorism most

    definable element.8 In examining the roots of modern terrorism during the

    outbreak of the French Revolution, and the ensuing Reign of Terror, Andrew

    Sinclair argues that:

    Global Terrorism, p. 92; and Albert J. Bergesen and Omar Lizardo, International Terrorism and the World-System, Sociological Theory 22:1 (March 2004), p. 38. 6. J. Angelo Corlett, Terrorism: A Philosophical Analysis (Dodrecht/Boston/London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003), p. 118. 7. Gus Martin, Understanding Terrorism: Challenges, Perspectives, and Issues (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publishers, 2003), p. 33. 8. See Kegley, Jr. Characteristics, Causes, and Controls of the New Global Terrorism, p. 1.

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    The object of these sacred acts of violence is to terrify. The Latin word terrere originally meant to make tremble, both governments and whole peoples rather as a minor earthquake.9

    Therefore, if the act of terrorism can be reduced to a single dominant

    characteristic, it is clearly the harm that such terrorist actions do to innocent

    peoples. Whether random or intended, such terrorist actions are specifically

    directed at what we would term non-combatants or non-state officials.10 Thus,

    according to Martha Crenshaw: [T]errorism means socially and politically

    unacceptable violence aimed at an innocent target.11 Once more, Jenkins

    focuses on this key and overarching element of terrorism by examining its first

    modern utilization. Since that era [French Revolution] the word terrorism has

    commonly come to mean violent acts carried out randomly against nonmilitary,

    civilian targets, with the aim of inspiring fear in the wider population.12 Whether

    the terrorist actions are direct or indirect, kill, maim, harm psychologically or

    physically, or merely coerce and intimidate, it is the impact that such actions

    have on those perceived as innocent that to many experts of terrorism remain its

    central characteristic. Some liberal writers, such as Michael Walzer, have argued

    that such a component may be the only relevant aspect in identifying both a

    terrorist and a terrorist act. Thus, according to Walzer, in a not so subtle and

    objective manner: The practice [of terrorism] is indefensible now that it has been recognized, like rape and murder, as an attack upon the innocent It

    9. Andrew Sinclair, An Anatomy of Terror: A History of Terrorism (London, Basingstoke, and Oxford: Macmillan, 2003), p. 327. 10. Of course, such a definition would seem to exclude such individuals as the military, police, or other government agents (i.e., legitimate targets). 11. Martha Crenshaw, as quoted in White. Jonathan R. White, Terrorism 2002 Update: An Introduction 4th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning, 2003), p. 9. James Johnson makes a similar argument when he states that: It [terrorism] deliberately chooses to kill the innocent rather than seeking to avoid harm to them. James Turner Johnson, Just War Theory: Responding Morally to Global Terrorism, in Kegley, Jr. (ed.) The New Global Terrorism, p. 224. 12. Philip Jenkins, Images of T